Open access makes it possible for the results of research to have the greatest possible impact. It is based on the idea that the products of research (i.e., full-text publications and research data) should be available to the user free of charge and without restrictions. This means that the results of research should be permanently accessible online, either through open access electronic journals, monographs or textbooks, or through institutional or personal repositories or archival systems.
Over the past decade, the momentum for open access has been steadily growing. Numerous funding agencies and institutions around the world have implemented policies requiring that the publications and data resulting from the research they support be made freely available.
In October 2004, SSHRC took the position of supporting open access in principle. It did so in order to guide the development of its research-support programs and to help move the results of publicly funded research in the social sciences and humanities more broadly throughout the world of research and into society.
Following consultations with the research community, SSHRC’s governing council approved a policy on open access in 2006, deciding to take “an awareness-raising, educational and promotional approach to [the policy’s] implementation, rather than imposing mandatory requirements.” To that end, SSHRC has taken the following steps toward implementing the policy:
- SSHRC has championed publication infrastructure initiatives funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, such as the Synergies platform established in 2006 for the publication and dissemination of research results in social sciences and humanities.
- In 2007, to facilitate the transition to open access publishing models, SSHRC held a successful pilot competition for an open access journals funding opportunity, providing over $219,000 to fund open access journals. In 2008, SSHRC started inviting applications for financial support from open access journals through its Aid to Scholarly Journals funding opportunity. In the 2011 competition, more than half of applicants had an open access or a delayed open access business model.
- In 2010, SSHRC funded two projects on open access through its Knowledge Synthesis Grants on the Digital Economy funding opportunity.
- As set out in its strategic plan Framing Our Direction 2010-12, and as part of its program architecture renewal initiative, SSHRC began in 2010 to offer funding for knowledge mobilization activities. SSHRC also began integrating knowledge mobilization objectives throughout its programming. For example, evaluation criteria for new grant funding opportunities include subcriteria related to knowledge mobilization plans for the project as well as to the applicant’s record of achievement in knowledge mobilization. SSHRC considers open access to research outputs to be one of many possible approaches to the effective mobilization of knowledge.
- In 2011, application forms for new funding opportunities under SSHRC’s Insight and Connection programs introduced a module on knowledge mobilization, encouraging applicants to adopt open access approaches to research dissemination to the extent possible. The module also makes reference to SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving Policy. Applicants are thus reminded that all research data collected using SSHRC funds must be preserved for use by others within a reasonable period of time.
- Under the Connection program, particular importance will be given to proposals that include plans for open access and open source approaches to knowledge mobilization.
- Costs associated with open access publishing are considered by SSHRC to be eligible grant expenses, as outlined in the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide under "Dissemination of Research Results."
SSHRC’s commitment to open access aligns with its knowledge mobilization strategy (2009-11) and its strategic priorities, as outlined in Framing Our Direction 2010-12. SSHRC’s goal is to mobilize knowledge and build understanding, thereby broadening Canada’s realm of influence and strengthening access to the best, most promising ideas worldwide.
In July 2012, SSHRC signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities to sustain its promotion of open and, when possible, free access to all research results supported through its programs and initiatives.
SSHRC continues to consult regularly with the research community and its partners across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to refine its suite of policies and procedures.
As the Government of Canada’s principal funders of research and scholarship in the higher education sector, SSHRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) actively promote and connect research across all disciplines and within and beyond academia to ensure its effective dissemination and to maximize its intellectual, cultural, social and economic impact. As part of this commitment, the three federal research granting agencies have taken various measures to promote open access practices, including:
- partnering in 2007-08 International Polar Year activities: researchers participating in the Canadian polar program were required to follow the Canadian policy on open access to research data;
- releasing, in 2010, the 2nd edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct of Research, which includes guidelines on data management, secondary use, and analysis and dissemination of clinical trial outcomes;
- developing, in 2010, a shared set of guiding principles for improving access to publicly funded research that are in keeping with internationally recognized best practices, standards and policies for funding and conducting research; and
- exploring options for a common policy on access to research results, and examining how open access provisions can be incorporated effectively into other research support programs.
The agencies’ goal is to ultimately adopt a joint policy on access to research results. As a first step, they commissioned the Comprehensive Brief on Open Access to Publications and Research Data for the Federal Granting Agencies.